I have noticed an annoying trend on Stack Overflow that anything not directly related to programming, the actual act of programming, is closed.

See this question: What should the penalty/response for missing a deadline be?

This is easily within the scope of Stack Overflow, it may not be to do with code but it is to do with software development. Programmers are more than code monkeys they are designers of software and all that entails. Why do I see questions on color design of applications closed? On usabity closed?

Am I wrong in my idea of Stack Overflow?

Edit Just to be clear. I did not write the question.

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    There are definitely some 'closers' who only like the hard tech questions, and some that only like questions related to the kind of work they do. – Lance Roberts Jul 17 '09 at 18:12
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    I absolutely agree with you Damien. Life is a bit more dimensional sometimes. Sometimes? No! All the time. Especially the stuff you cannot learn (like how X works) but only get through experience is in these kinds of Questions and Answers... – raoulsson Jul 17 '09 at 18:34
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    You are not wrong about your idea, however, I DO support the closing in THIS case. Your question was just a bit too far from being specific to programming. – devinb Jul 17 '09 at 18:46
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    Yet questions about source control (NOT programming) are left open and rightly so. There are also the non programming questions that somehow get left open (mostly because they are the ones Jeff engages in). So there is a double standard that is not well defined so the rigid/closers feel justified in closing anything they can find. We might as well just shut down SO because everything that can be asked has already been asked... – tim Jul 17 '09 at 22:06
  • I had intended for it to be programming specific, and would really appreciate help editing it to make it really ask "how can we get good code given this deadline/failure/whatever/this-is-the-part-i-need-help-with – Arthur Ulfeldt Jul 17 '09 at 22:33

I agree that the processes surrounding the development and writing of software and directly related to programming and should be acceptable questions on SO. The management of projects is a very important aspect in programming, without which programmers would not get paid.

From here item four is:

Questions about best practices and other aspects of programming, including use of software tools used in the development process, standards for maintenance and readability of code, advice to avoid potential coding pitfalls, etc. (11)

I think your question definitely about the development process. It is definitely a subjective question, which is also a gray area, but I do believe it is directly related to programming.

  • Wasn't my question but I agree with all that – Damien Jul 17 '09 at 18:10
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    His question did NOT apply to those criteria. – devinb Jul 17 '09 at 18:44
  • I wanted to make the question objective though I'm not really sure how to write such a question. – Arthur Ulfeldt Jul 17 '09 at 22:25

The question you reference above concerning missing a deadline is something that can be applied to any work place that has deadlines. There is nothing programming specific about it (in my opinion and apparently in the opinion of others).

Questions that deal with the workplace, project management, relations with clients, etc. do get allowed but typically only if they actually have a software-development slant to them. If the answer to the question could theoretically be taken and applied to any job out there, that would lead you to believe that the question itself is not programming related.

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    This does have a Software slant to them because deadlines is especially relevent in Software due the nature of development which can be difficult to estimate. – Damien Jul 17 '09 at 18:12
  • Damien: Deadlines were meant to be broken, and I don't think that the software world's estimation of deadlines makes them a special outlier. I'm not saying that a question concerning deadlines wouldn't be allowed, but the question you wrote doesn't strike me as being programming-centric. You talk about firing everyone, or rewarding when deadlines are met, but that is something that can be applied to any work place. Project management decisions can doom any project regardless if it is coding or building a skyscraper. – TheTXI Jul 17 '09 at 18:17
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    I didn't write the question. – Damien Jul 17 '09 at 19:57
  • not true - scheduling in other professions is typically MUCH easier. In the software world books, processes and careers have been made on the topic and IT STILL is not a solved problem. – tim Jul 17 '09 at 22:07
  • @TheTXI - That is amazing - "meant to be broken"? – tim Jul 17 '09 at 22:08
  • I wanted the question to be about the effects on the actual code. I would love to edit the question and give it enough development-slant to satisfy you. I just need help with the wording. – Arthur Ulfeldt Jul 17 '09 at 22:27

Questions about company policy are not really fit for Stack Overflow.

They will tend to be "subjective and argumentative" because people will vary WILDLY in opinion, as well as the fact that labour laws, etc. will be very different depending on the millions of factors that could be involved.

They are also not-programming-related because although they are used by consulting firms and computer development shops, they are policies that have to exist in every company, and so a group of programmers really aren't the people to be asking about this.

The purpose of Stack Overflow is to hold answers to programming specific questions, and although we do tend to wander into interpersonal management occasionally, those are the exception and they almost ALWAYS have to do with programmers dealing with clients, superiors, etc. In your question it was ANY superior dealing with ANY employee of theirs. The string to programming in particular is non-existent.

  • I agree for the most part, but I am willing to let workplace questions come in if they actually have some sort of piece to them that makes them specific to the programming world and not just a question that can be applied to any business anywhere. – TheTXI Jul 17 '09 at 18:18
  • But StackOverflow, by it's very NAME is not for 'general work place suggestions' There are hundreds of 'run a better business' sites that are devoted to stuff like that. Let the experts be experts. – devinb Jul 17 '09 at 18:44
  • I did not intend for it to be a question about company policy. How should I fix this? – Arthur Ulfeldt Jul 17 '09 at 22:27

For the record, when I voted to close that question I chose the reason "subjective and argumentative". I based that on the title, which is vague, open-ended, and designed simply to trigger discussion (not really a direct Q&A). The answers I saw before closing were additional evidence of the subjective nature of the topic. The questions added at the end are less subjective, but basically turn it into a poll question, which didn't help matters.

I do agree with what TheTXI said, though. I can see how that particular question wouldn't seem specific to programming and instead be interpreted as a general question about workplace management.

  • I had not though of it as argumentative and now that you mention it I will deffinatly try to fix this. thanks. – Arthur Ulfeldt Jul 17 '09 at 22:28

The original post has been edited to lessen the argumentative language (I downplay the work penalty) and I added the word 'code' all over the place to make it very clear that the question is about processes that result in code.

Is this enough to move the question out of that gray area?


Copying my response to the question itself:

It's an interesting question, but I don't see that it's particularly specific to programming. Actually, Rex M's answer provides a better basis for a real programming-related question... of course, it's already been asked: How do you handle scheduling/deadlines around programmers? (and even that question is more of a subjective / discussion / poll topic than Q&A - it should probably have been marked CW).

  • The stubborn streak in me wants to drum up more support to close the question. But I suppose it's time to let bygones be bygones and just walk away. – devinb Jul 17 '09 at 19:44
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    why does it bother you so much that questions are left open? If people want to view them they will, and if they don't they don't. Obviously some people get something out of it and other don;t I am amazed at the prolific activity of those voting to close questions. – tim Jul 17 '09 at 22:10
  • @tim: not sure what prolific activity you're talking about... Out of the thousand or so questions posted in the last 15 hours, only 30 have been closed - under 3%. AFAIK, Jeff posted overall stats at one point, and it was similarly low. As to why anything gets closed... this has been discussed many times, but the first few days of SuperUser should illustrate pretty well what happens when anything goes: Actual questions get lost in the noise. – Shog9 Jul 17 '09 at 22:29
  • this question is about retroactivly doing things to get the project finished with out ruining the code / making it un-maintainable. I do agree that the question as origionally posted was not well enough worded and i think your (shog9) last edit helped fix that. thanks. – Arthur Ulfeldt Jul 17 '09 at 22:30
  • yw, Arthur. Regardless of my opinion on whether or not it's an appropriate topic for SO, i have enjoyed reading the answers... and the discussions sparked by them. ;-) – Shog9 Jul 17 '09 at 22:42
  • One argument could be - if a question easily yields programming-related answers, how "NPR" can it really be? – Rex M Jul 19 '09 at 16:01
  • @Rex: well, that is a good argument... I think programming-related answers to a non-programming-related question can provide some good hints at how the question should be refined to become programming-related. – Shog9 Jul 20 '09 at 0:42

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